Things you didn’t know

Eduwonk reprints a passionate op-ed by Michael Goldstein, founder of a very successful Boston charter school, on “10 things about education reform I bet you didn’t know.” For example:

More recently you’ve heard charges — especially from teachers union officials who despise union-free charters — that charters schools aren’t doing well. There are 29 open-admissions high schools in Boston. Charters were ranked #1, #2, #3, #4, and #9 out of 29 on MCAS proficiency.

Massachusetts is considering evaluating schools by a “Value-Add” system pioneered in Tennessee and Minnesota, that measures improvement.

Wellesley High gets to say it’s amazing because it happens to have kids who show up with huge MCAS scores, despite the fact that their MCAS proficiency gap (white+Asian compared to black+Hispanic) that exceeds 50 percentage points. And without Value-Add, Hyde Park High will continue to be excoriated, because it serves kids who show up with failing scores, instead of accounting for how much improvement they make.

Value-Add could answer which schools help kids the most, Goldstein writes.

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  1. Value-Add could answer a lot of things, including how to give schools incentive to teach kids already working at or above grade level.

    It would be tempting to then drop all other rewards and penalties, and just pay school districts (and teachers) by the point. I doubt the unions would go for piecework, though.

    Besides, it might have been better if the Feds had focused solely on designing and administering accurate tests, and steered clear of NCLB incentives and penalties (except incentives to actually administer the test). In the long run it might have been more valuable to have good, relatively unbiased data. Given accurate test results, the Parents with Pitchforks would probably be more effective than the Feds at pushing through reform.